The Wheel Turns

By Julia Park Tracey

The longer I watch Downton Abbey, the more apparent it is that I’m watching a Shakespearean comedy unfold. I don’t mean comedy as in sit-com, what most viewers are used to for knee-slapping laughs. I mean comedy in the theatrical, classical sense: where the players can teeter on the edge of darkness, where fear and pain can loom, but laughter or joy can bring them back from disaster.  Where Mary often seemed to be living in a tragedy in early seasons, she is now fully developed, sure of herself and her place in the world. And lovely Edith is finally, finally growing into her shoes as a mature woman, too.

Here are some of our favorite moments from Sunday’s episode:

Anna is expecting (a child, not a summons) again, but when a series of sharp abdominal pains strike, Lady Mary whisks her to London where the specialist takes a few sutures and Anna will get to—we hope—carry her baby to term. While immediate bed-rest would be my doctor’s prescription, it doesn’t seem imminent for Anna. At least Mary didn’t let her carry the suitcases downstairs. The car and train trip to London while Anna is in extremis seemed a little hard to swallow as a real option, but what the heck, it finished that loop of plot, and if Anna’s smiling, I’m happy. Let’s hope she gets to put her feet up soon.


Daisy, in a rush of rage, seems hell-bent on throwing away her job as she stomps upstairs to face down Cora over Yew Tree Farm. Luckily for Cora, the Crawleys have all decided to give the farm to Mr. Mason to run, so there’s no showdown, only stunned gratitude on Daisy’s part. A narrow miss for everyone, with another plot loop (remembering William and Daisy’s brief marriage) neatly tied off.

daisy and gwen

The Dowager Countess, with a few of her famous acerbic zingers, says to Robert, “Mary needs more than a handsome smile and a hand on the gear stick.” (OH, MY!)
He retorts, “I’m surprised you know what a gear stick is.” Wait for it…
“I know more than you think,” she adds.  #SHAZAM
But even better, when it comes back to the tedious argument about the hospital, Violet actually, actually makes sense. From the perspective of today, with Facebook and Obamacare and the very real issue of state interference in our private lives and medical decisions, Violet makes it all clear. I might even agree with her.

violet and robert

The full circle of little housemaid Gwen comes around; she was the housemaid who taught herself to type, then got a job with the telephone company in Season One. She went on to marry and go into local politics with her husband, and came back to Downton to speak about the importance of education for women. Barrow tries to bring Gwen down a peg in front of the family, but the Crawleys won’t have it. They are astonished by Gwen’s drive and success, and call it a 20th century story. Indeed.

gwen and husband


What we loved:

  • Bates’s smile when he realized he’s going to be a papa. #weep
  • Mary complimented Edith about being a woman editor. #jawdrop
    Of course, Mary giveth and Mary taketh away; she follows with, “A monkey will type out the Bible if you leave it long enough.” #zing
  • Barrow getting scolded by Robert for being unkind, and Baxter telling Barrow, “You’re your own worst enemy.” Barrow used to be hate-able, but he’s only pitiful these days. #sigh
  • On the topic of women and higher education, Mary’s throwaway line which all but damns the upper classes: “All we were taught was French, prejudice and dance steps.” #zingagain

Mary and date

What we look forward to (for better or worse):

  • Will Robert drop dead of a heart attack? Or will Violet? They both seem about to flame out in a blaze of glory, the more agitated they get. And wouldn’t that bring some divine justice to the (yawn) hospital question?
  • Will Tom figure out what he will do, back in England? Will he, former chauffeur, go back to cars as a passion and career?
  • Will Miss Baxter and Molesley marry? Or at least agree to disagree about her former con man?
  • Will everyone else who lacks a mate find one?

What we don’t care about:

  • Apparently there’s more drama about the hospital…zzzz. Did I nod off?
  • Apparently there’s going to be a car race…(yawn) Really? Why doesn’t that thrill me more?


Until next week, #pinkiesup! #teatime

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